Swine flu update: Europe and the bottom of the world

For those of you looking to follow new cases (most of them suspected at this point, not confirmed), a great resource is HealthMap. Reports are popping up of possible infections worldwide: Scotland, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand. Certainly additional possible cases will be showing up over the coming days as well.

One thing I’ve seen mentioned (including here in the comments) is a question about the unlikelihood of a flu outbreak in Mexico in late April. Isn’t influenza a cold-weather bug? Well, yes and no. Influenza circulates year-round at a low level, but it lasts longer in the environment in colder temperatures with lower humidity, meaning more people can potentially be infected by each infected person, leading to our seasonal outbreaks. However, recall that in 1918 the first cases began in winter/spring 1918, and then it came back with a vengeance beginning in August, and really taking off by October. Additionally, we essentially have no barriers to worldwide spread, and there are already potential cases in New Zealand and Australia (where winter is setting in).

Again, we don’t know right now whether this will die out or become the next pandemic, but the spring timing of this doesn’t necessarily limit the virus’ potential.

Following Aetiology…

While I’m at it, I might as well add that I now have a twitter account, for those of you who’d like to follow along there: http://twitter.com/aetiology

Or, if RSS feeds are more your thing, Aetiology’s is http://feeds.feedburner.com/scienceblogs/aetiology

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

Swine influenza–older posts

While there’s interest and some new readers, I figured I’d link some of my older posts on swine influenza and pandemic influenza in general for some additional background information and history. Keep in mind that these are unrelated to the current outbreak.

Pandemic influenza series (a bit dated, but still some good information in there, including an overview of 20th century pandemics).

Asymptomatic swine flu infections in farmers

Swine flu in Ohio fairgoers

Iowan has swine flu

New swine influenza virus detected

Masks and influenza

Masks and influenza part II

Swine flu: 20 US cases now identified [UPDATED–6 Canadian cases also confirmed]

According to new information from the CDC, in addition to the 2 cases in Texas, 7 in California, and 2 in Kansas, the 8 in New York have now been confirmed, and an additional case has also been confirmed in Ohio (I’ve not seen any info on that case)–UPDATED below. Investigations are apparently ongoing in at least 2 Canadian provinces, also (British Columbia and Nova Scotia). An investigation is also ongoing in New Zealand after teenagers took a trip to Mexico and have shown flu-like symptoms.

Concerning to say the least, but crof and revere both have some excellent posts to keep things in perspective. I’ve hated the screaming headlines at many of the MSM sites, and Crawford has a great post encouraging calm. revere, meanwhile, has a nice overview of influenza and world travel, and what we should be focusing on now that it seems the genie is already out of the bottle.

Again, this is a fast-developing story; some of this information will probably be out of date by a few hours after I post this, so stay tuned…

UPDATED: found some information on the Ohio case, from the Toledo Blade:

The Ohio Department of Health says a 9-year-old boy who recently traveled to Mexico on vacation with his family has a confirmed case of swine flu.

Health department spokesman Robert Jennings said Sunday the boy is recovering at his home in Elyria, in northern Ohio’s Lorain County. The child’s name was not released.

Jennings says the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the case, but officials do not know if the child has the same deadly strain of swine flu that has killed up to 81 people in Mexico.

Jennings says the boy displayed typical symptoms of the flu, including a sore throat and body aches. Jennings says the child returned from Mexico within the past two weeks.

Jennings says the boy’s relatives are being tested for the disease, but they currently do not have any symptoms.

Nova Scotia cases have also been confirmed:

Nova Scotia’s chief public health officer says the east coast Canadian province has four confirmed cases of swine flu.

Chief Public Health officer Dr. Robert Strang says Sunday four students from King’s-Edgehill School in Nova Scotia ranging in age from 12 to 17 or 18 are recovering. All of them had what he describes as “very mild” cases of the flu.

2 cases in British Columbia also confirmed:

B.C.’s Centre for Disease Control on Sunday confirmed cases of swine flu involving two people from the province who recently returned from Mexico.

Swine flu: a quick overview–and new New York and Kansas cases

Sorry for the radio silence–I’ve been working on grants and manuscripts like a fiend, and so have tried to limit as many distractions as possible (which, unfortunately, includes blogging). However, the swine flu news is right up my alley, so I do just want to say a few words about it, and point you to some excellent stories already up elsewhere.

First, in case you’ve not been paying attention to the news in the last few days, there have been 8 reported cases of swine influenza infections in humans (6 in California and 2 in Texas, with additional suspected cases) and reports from Mexico suggesting as many as 1000 ill and 68 dead from influenza in the past month or so. Of the Mexican cases, a dozen thus far have been confirmed to be the same strain as the US swine flu strain from California/Texas.

What does all this mean? Much more after the jump.
Continue reading “Swine flu: a quick overview–and new New York and Kansas cases”